Can We Bring Nothing to What We Listen To?

Updated: Nov 25, 2020


Networks of Conversation Condition our Listening


As human beings, we are contemporary to our time. The networks of conversation that we participate in give us the context for our perceiving, cognizing, and thinking. This shared sense of what is real and what is not real conditions how we automatically listen. We can hear little else and so very little of what I know is known by me alone.  Instead, I identify with the consensus that exists in my network of conversations.


Identity and its assessments are persistent. I cannot suddenly “not know” what I know. It plays a major role in my in perceiving, cognizing, and thinking.  Excluding it is difficult, especially when I listen to others. The best I can do is to intentionally, “bracket” or segment it for a while,  so that I can for a moment be with what is new to me as I encounter it. Conditioning never goes away, so I must live with it, but conditioning is also an ongoing structural process in me, so I can learn and take on new conditioning.


Evolution of Human Biological Biological Machines


For listening to occur, that is intentional, I actually must make an effort. This is because the automatism of my biology will coordinate and corroborate whatever I perceive so as to represent it to myself as a concept.  This is the architecture of human consciousness.  I am a human biological machine that automatically constructs meaning. It is what a human being does as a meaning-making machine.


The possibility of a kind of listening which is other than that could possibly emerge through evolution in time. However, such as we are, we might not expect that it will emerge from the always and already present automatic listening that currently runs the minds of human beings.  What we learn newly is only new for a moment. It then becomes something we know, and we relate to it as that.   Still, the possibility of actually listening with attention to what we are hearing offers something new. If I can observe that my perception of the world converts into a constructed representation (through my cognition), I can then realize something about not only myself but also about others.  If I can listen without adding what I already know to my newly formed perception, I could possibly hear something new and unfamiliar instead of what I think I already know or recognize. I could discover something.


Transforming  Culture through Shared Listening


When I am talking to other people, I forget that they are also biological entities just like me. They also perceive and cognize automatically.  Like me, they are also meaning-making machines. When a culture of listening occurs in the world, and other people also make the effort to listen with attention and without the preconditioning of their own biases, then something new may be possible for the world. It would be a moment of interaction that is very different from when I am alone in my effort. As a practice in a social network of conversation, such a listening might only be possible when one practices it together with others. This would be a new and different culture of shared listening.  Because, when I am listening alone, even when I am with another, I am usually only hearing myself.


© Copyright 2014 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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